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SAVOR: The Last Call?

SAVOR Week is upon us once again, and if the calendar seems a little light this year, consider that Meridian Pint is no more. Without one of the District’s premier beer venues, there are probably at least a half-dozen fewer events. Compounding matters, this week is Catholic University’s graduation, which means that Brookland Pint will be catering to families celebrating graduates more than SAVOR Week beer fans. In addition, SAVOR is one night only this year, so breweries are incentivized to make it a quick trip, and SAVOR is earlier this year than it has been in previous ones.

The main event is a Friday-only affair, there is no collaboration beer (this year’s party favor comes exclusively from The Lost Abbey), and there are very few SAVOR-related events. It leaves a craft beer lover wondering, what’s the future of SAVOR?

No collaboration brew at this year’s SAVOR, just “SAVOR Sin” from The Lost Abbey

Now is the time to savor SAVOR

DC Beer has heard from multiple independent sources within the Brewers Association that this will be the last SAVOR, and thus the final SAVOR Week.

This is not the first time we’ve heard rumors of SAVOR’s demise. Fritz Hahn noted declining enthusiasm in 2016 in The Washington Post, citing a multitude of other beer events in the area and the lottery process for SAVOR participant selection. By choosing breweries at random, the most sought-after breweries that drive demand (and ticket sales) are less likely to be picked out of a field of 7,000-plus. Phil Runco wasn’t exaggerating when he recently wrote, “Any average night in 2019 at ChurchKey or Brookland Pint or Pizzeria Paradiso offers a draft list more impressive than a 2014 SAVOR week event.”

Last year DC Beer’s editor emeritus, Bill DeBaun, asked if the event’s beer list could possibly rescue SAVOR and generate buzz again, but ticket sales still lagged. Limiting this year’s event to a single night did achieve one desired effect: SAVOR 2019 sold out weeks before the event, something that didn’t happen until the day before it began last year.

This time it looks like the rumors are true; the formal decision on SAVOR’s fate will be made the day of the event, Friday, May 17th, at the Brewers Association Board of Directors quarterly meeting, potentially adding a bittersweet note to the celebration. As an update to this post, the Brewers Association notes that the timing of any announcement regarding the future of SAVOR “will develop during the Brewers Association’s Q3 & Q4 planning and budget process,” and not later this week, as the article initially stated.

Goodbye, DC, and thanks for all the pints.

It’s hard to overstate how vital SAVOR has been to DC’s beer scene. Over the last twelve years (except for an ill-fated New York City attempt in 2013) out-of-town brewers and beer tourists have become familiar with our city. They’ve been exposed to our many craft beer bars, they’ve seen the District grow from just two to six brewpubs along with seven production breweries, and they’ve been made aware of the more than 100 breweries and brewpubs in the greater Metro area.

Of course, SAVOR is held in DC for a specific reason. Brewers are in town to do their annual “Hill climb,” meeting with their Representatives and Senators at the Capitol to advocate for their industry. Still, DMV craft beer consumers and businesses reap side benefits, taking advantage of DC’s favorable beer importing rules to turn many of our bars into craft beer free-for-alls during the week before the event and occasionally after as bars attempted to drain kegs ($4 Zombie Dust, anyone?).

In SAVORs past, bottle shops overflowed with whales and oddities alike.

The future looks… bright?

We assume that the Brewers Association is not done with DC altogether. Face-time with elected officials and their staff has real value for the nation’s breweries, most of which are small businesses, and for the industry as a whole. It will be interesting to see how the BA develops this aspect of their mission moving forward, and we will wait to see whether there will be a public-facing element. DC hosted the Craft Brewers Conference in 2013 and 2017, so perhaps it will be held here on a more regular basis?

We in the DC Metro area have had it pretty good over the last 12 years. Appreciate it. Savor it, even. And remember, we still have Snallygaster. If this is the final SAVOR and SAVOR Week, let’s make it a good one. Let’s go out with a bang, not a whimper.

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